by Kris Harrell
Troy Theatre and Dance has begun its work on the Spring musical “Jekyll and Hyde.” With a steampunk atmosphere, director Tommy Newman hopes to reinvent this challenging piece to something not seen before.
Premiering on Broadway in the 1990s, this over-the-top production is a musical adaptation of the novella, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
One of the reasons for the selection of this musical was based on recognition. However, there were other factors at play.
“I think the music is just so fun, and I grew up loving this piece,” said Tommy Newman, lecturer of Theatre and Dance. “I used to sing along to the score when I was a kid in my car. Having the opportunity to work on this particular musical as an adult is really fun, interesting and cool to return to.
“Also, I think there’s a challenge in the material in that the show has rarely been received very well by critics, but the music is beloved by everyone.”
One distinct feature of the commercial productions of “Jekyll and Hyde” is the fact that one actor plays the roles of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, mentally and physiologically switching between the two on stage. However, Troy University’s production will feature two actors for these roles: John Alloway as Dr. Henry Jekyll and Caleb Quick as Mr. Edward Hyde.
These actors have already begun their work, working together to bring these characters to life.
“My process has begun with trying to learn what it would mean for people to not have societal influences,” said Caleb Quick, a sophomore theatre major from Prattville, Alabama. “Like how we’re supposed to talk to people, how we’re supposed to be polite, treat everybody the way that you want to be treated, and how you’re supposed to treat everyone equally.
“In a way, Hyde is just there for himself. All the societal influences that we have are not there with him. He is there for himself and nothing else. .”
Meanwhile, John Alloway, a freshman theatre major from Troy, Alabama, is returning to the original novella for inspiration. Utilizing acting methods such as Hawkin’s Nine Questions and Practical Aesthetics by David Mamet and William H. Macy, Alloway brings himself into the character.
“I’ve been trying to work with that on scenes and songs so that each moment of the show I am working towards a goal, and then trying to find how that relates to my personal life to get a performance that is believable and truthful and that the audience can enjoy,”Alloway said.
This decision also highlights the piece’s take on the duality of human nature: the idea that every human has good and evil within them.
“When you look at who we are right now in America, our duality is kind of on display. We have great, great propensity towards compassion.” Newman said. “But there is also a string of hate and violence that runs through us as well.
“I think exploring that in sort of a philosophical way through this very spectacle-driven musical is just another approach to the conversation of what we’re all about,” Newman added.
“I want people to sort of understand that there is a sort of duality of man, as the show would put it, that there is evil and good in everyone. But that doesn’t necessarily have to define who they are as people.” Alloway said.
Throughout the production, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the physical embodiment of this idea.
“Hyde is all of the suppressed feelings that Jekyll hides throughout the day. I think Hyde is all of Jekyll’s ambitions, all of his wants.” Quick said.
“He is unencumbered. He is mankind at its physical peak. He’s very strong. He is relentless. He is determined. He’s dedicated – I’ll give him that. He is everything that Jekyll can be, but was afraid to be.”
Another aspect different from the original show to Troy University’s production is the application of steampunk elements, with plans for wires, LEDs, and gears to decorate the stage to create the illusion of transparent, green goo flowing through tubes across the proscenium.
“Steampunk is typically a combination of like industrial elements and some contemporary elements that mix in with that Victorian style and sensibility,” Newman said.
Additionally, director Newman hopes to bring more movement into the production, incorporating a large ensemble and shadow work to differentiate this production from other renditions of “Jekyll and Hyde.” This also allows more theatre and dance students to gain experience and take part in the production.
“Jekyll and Hyde” will begin its run on April 12 and will finish on April 18.